Batting chinks critical in virtual quarter-final

Agarkar: Ashwin's ability was never in question (3:30)

Ajit Agarkar and Shaun Tait on whether R Ashwin should be slotted into India's XI for the must-win game against South Africa (3:30)

Match facts

June 11, 2017
Start time 1030 local (0930 GMT)

Big picture

Put in by Sri Lanka, after 30 overs in their respective matches: South Africa 163 for 1, India 169 for 2. Never mind the end result, but the approach of the two sides in the next 10 overs told us a lot about how they play their 50-over cricket. South Africa's next five overs: 8, 8, 4, 7, 8. India's next five: 1, 4, 4, 1, 9. Trying to push 350, South Africa lost too many wickets and ended up with just 299. India, knowing they don't do too well when defending under 300, first ensured 300 and took the bonus 21 runs with wickets in hand in the end.

Both sides win a lot of matches with their respective approaches, and lose a few too. South Africa got away with this one against Sri Lanka; India lost despite scoring 321. At the start of 2016, India lost successive matches in Australia despite scoring 309, 308 and 295. A year earlier, in similar conditions, against different opponents in a bigger tournament, they had won matches with 300, 307 and 302. Having lost to Sri Lanka now - they have never won an ICC tournament in which they lose a match to Sri Lanka - will India give up their trusted way of playing ODIs and actively aim for 340 should they find themselves at 160 for 1 or 2 after 30 overs? Or will they bank on the mistakes the pressure of a knockout game induces and be happy with a safe 300-plus target?

South Africa, AB de Villiers especially, have been losing their way when looking to impose themselves. It left them in a crisis against Pakistan, and vulnerable against Sri Lanka. They can draw heart from the fact that their bowlers bailed them out against Sri Lanka, and even Pakistan's chase of 220 didn't look quite straightforward when rain brought a premature end to the match. Still, should they find themselves batting first again, and should they get off to a good start, will they have the heart to risk a sub-300 total against the chasing might of India in an attempt to go for their preferred 350?

Truth be told, both sides might want to chase and not grapple with this critical decision making in the first half of this quarter-final scenario that no one expected. This is all thanks to Pakistan and Sri Lanka who have brought the tournament alive by beating South Africa and India, respectively, in a group that everyone thought was only meant to decide who out of India and South Africa will play the second-placed team from the other group in the semi-final. Now, only one of them will go through, especially with weather that looks fine now. Slightly late, but the Champions Trophy has finally had its share of good fortune.

Form guide

India LWLWW (completed matches, most recent first)
South Africa LWWLL

In the spotlight

Since his comeback, Yuvraj Singh has had innings of 15, 150, 45, 53 and 7. He has brought India that explosiveness they badly needed in the middle. His was the innings that turned what looked like a competitive total into a match-winning one against Pakistan. While all the focus is on how India's top three approach the innings, South Africa will want to get him as early as possible. India have lost their second wicket in the 37th and 26th overs in the first two matches; Yuvraj will be key should they do so earlier now.

Despite an ordinary IPL and despite an unremarkable ODI series against England, AB de Villiers has looked anxious to impose himself. Or is it perhaps because of those modest returns? Whatever be the case, it would appear that de Villiers has got out cheaply twice in a row, looking to force the issue without getting himself in. The first time, against Sri Lanka, was what the team interest demanded: South Africa were 189 for 2 when he walked in. Against Pakistan, it seemed more personal that he went against a left-arm spinner first ball, after having struggled against left-arm spin in the IPL. In a knockout match, can he now afford himself some time to feel good again and then look to dominate?

Team news

There will be a big temptation to finally play R Ashwin: South Africa have three left-hand batsmen in the top six. Having said that, three left-hand batsmen plus Thisara Perera didn't get Ashwin a game against Sri Lanka. Having failed to defend 321, though, India might be forced to think differently. If they do, it becomes interesting again if they do it at the expense of Ravindra Jadeja, who went for 52 in eight overs at the same venue. They lose out on a gun fielder should they do that, but Jadeja is now without a three-wicket haul for 23 ODI innings. They might think of two spinners too because India's quicks generally haven't done well against South Africa. Umesh Yadav had a poor day against Sri Lanka, and he might be the one to miss out.

India (possible) 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli (capt.), 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 MS Dhoni (wk), 6 Kedar Jadhav, 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Ravindra Jadeja, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Umesh Yadav/R Ashwin, 11 Jasprit Bumrah

South Africa might not hit the panic button when it comes to selection even though JP Duminy has scored only four fifties and averages only 30 since the 2015 World Cup. Farhaan Behardien hasn't lit up the stage either. There are options, though, for Wayne Parnell, who doesn't have a great record against India: economy rate of 7.4 and average of 81.4. If they get more adventurous, South Africa could think of the left-arm spin of Keshav Maharaj.

South Africa (possible): 1 Hashim Amla, 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 Faf du Plessis, 4 AB de Villiers (capt), 5 David Miller, 6 JP Duminy, 7 Chris Morris, 8 Wayne Parnell/Andile Phehlukwayo 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Imran Tahir

Pitch and conditions

The Oval has been the truest surface. In three completed matches there, the record for the highest successful Champions Trophy chase has been broken twice in the last 10 days. Don't bet against a third one, especially with clear weather. The pitch from the India-Sri Lanka game will be used again.

Stats and trivia

  • In all ICC tournaments, including the World T20s, India have beaten South Africa eight times out of 12, including in each of their last four meetings.

  • Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav don't have a good record against South Africa: economy rates of 7.17 and 6.81 with averages over 50. While Jasprit Bumrah has never played against South Africa, Mohammed Shami has more than held his own: economy rate of just under six and an average of just under 20.

  • After a stellar start to his career - 17 wickets at 14.64 and economy of 3.63 in his first eight matches, Bumrah has gone for 6.88 an over for five wickets at 60.6 in his last five ODIs. His average is 20 and economy rate 4.55 when India bowl first; in defences he has gone at 5.93 an over and has taken a wicket every 57.33 runs.

  • Morne Morkel has got Shikhar Dhawan four times in 77 balls for 44 runs, Virat Kohli three times in 104 balls for 68 runs and MS Dhoni three times in 77 balls for 47 runs.

  • R Ashwin has dismissed Quinton de Kock twice in 86 balls for 70 runs.


"The team that can have the most composure, I would say, to sum it up, will have a better chance of winning of the game tomorrow."
Virat Kohli at his diplomatic best ahead of the game

"I'm really enjoying the captaincy. I think I make some good calls. But yeah, pencil's in your hand, and I unfortunately can't control what you're going to write but in my mind I'm a good captain. So that's unfortunately going to come down to the result again tomorrow. Hopefully a good one."
AB de Villiers goes down a similar path